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Reviews of London's Restaurants, Supper Clubs and Hotels, Wine Tastings, Travel Writing, and Home to the Japanese and French Supper Clubs in Islington

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Saturday, 15 October 2011

London Restaurant Reviews – Feng Sushi (Borough Market)

I became one of Silla Bjerrum’s fans earlier this year when I attended a sushi master class and was lucky enough to meet her (reviewed here). I had a fascinating time as the founder of Feng Sushi showed us how to cut through fillet after fillet of different types of fish and roll the most delectable sushi.

It was also an opportunity to learn about her commitment to purchase fish from sustainable sources whenever possible, and her continuous efforts to maintain the quality standards she set out throughout the 6 branches of her restaurant chain. There are no crabsticks in sight at Feng Sushi as these are banned, Silla opts for real crab meat instead as well as line-caught , mackerel, sustainable salmon and hand-dived scallops.

I recently returned to Feng Sushi's Borough Market branch, her first which opened in the late 90s. The restaurant is rather small but is also light and airy with a very casual, canteen feel about it - light wooden tables that can be shared among diners, white and purple walls (Feng Sushi's colour), fish tanks and paper mats. Functional and a little austere, I felt the decor and seating were not conducive to a leisurely repast.

We ordered the "Borough Deluxe Sashimi to Share" @ £19.25 which contained a selection of seared tuna and salmon, hand dived scallops, yellowtail with chilli jam, and sea bass with salmon eggs. We felt that the fish tasted fresh and were very beautifully presented although we also agreed that little was gained by searing the sashimi tuna and salmon.

Feng Sushi's signature dish "Scallop Maki to Dive for" @ £7.25 was as delicious as I remember it - the rice was perfectly seasoned, and had a delicate but still firm texture. The scallops were meltingly tender and looked very attractive topped with the micro purple shiso leaves.

Next was the "Fish Tempura" @ £10 containing MSC hake (MSC = sustainable and certified) with 8 pieces of seasonal vegetables, onigiri sushi and dipping sauce. I was disappointed with this dish as I felt the batter was too thick and not as crisp as it should have been. Tempura is the one of the simplest of Japanese dishes but also one of the hardest to get right, and the chef on duty that day certainly didn't.

To round off our lunch we also had a selection of 14 nigiri and gunkan-maki (battleship) sushi, priced from £3.25 (Tamago - Japanese Omelette) to £7.95 (Ikura - Salmon Eggs) per pair. These were all competently made - the sushi rice was well cooked and seasoned, topped with excellent quality, ultra-fresh fish. Particularly good was the ama-ebi nigiri (sweet prawn) @ £5 and the ikura gunkan maki (salmon egg battleship) @ £7.95.

As a lunch-time treat, Dr G and I had a couple of cocktails - a deliciously fruity and reasonably strong Lychee Martini @ £6.25 and a refreshing Shochu Lemon Drop @ £5.75 to accompany our selection of sushi.

Cost: The London Foodie was a guest of Feng Sushi. I estimate that our meal cost approximately £30 per person excluding drinks.

Likes: excellent quality sushi and sashimi fish, commitment to sustainable fishing, well made and reasonably priced cocktails. Scallop Maki to Dive For is a winner.

Dislikes: wine menu feels like an after-thought - uninteresting and limited, tempura batter was disappointing, decor, tables and chairs feel austere and uninviting.

Verdict: Feng Sushi offers reliably fresh, excellent quality fish, ethically and sustainably sourced at reasonable prices. The six central locations across London make it a solid choice for affordable Japanese sushi and sashimi in the capital. Recommended.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

London Restaurant Festival - Giveaway #4 - Food and Drink Safari at Renaissance Pubs in Clapham and Battersea

The London Foodie has teamed up with Renaissance Pubs to offer you the chance to win a pair of tickets to their magnificent Food Safari this Saturday, 15th October 2011 from 12:30pm in conjunction with London RestaurantFestival.

If proper British pub grub is your thing, then head south to Clapham and Battersea and join Renaissance Pubs as they take you on a tour of four of their taverns - The Abbeville, The Stonhouse, The Avalon and TheBolingbroke.

Tickets are normally priced at £49.50 per person and include transport, food and fine wines. You’ll enjoy traditional British fare such as miniature homemade pies, quail Scotch eggs and Welsh rarebit at The Abbeville before moving onto a starter of chicken liver parfait, orange and onion marmalade served with a slice of sourdough at The Stonhouse. The Avalon plays host to the main course of slow roast pork belly served with parsnip purée, spinach, pine nuts and apple sauce whilst a pudding of passion fruit posset at The Bolingbroke ends the evening on a sweet note.
For more information about this London Restaurant Festival event or to purchase tickets please visit The Abbeville website on www.renaissancepubs.co.uk, or contact Hugo on 020 8675 2201, or email info@abbeville.co.uk.


To enter this competition, simply leave a comment in this post stating your NAME and E-MAIL address as MrBloggs(at)gmail(dot)com by midnight on Thursday, 13th October 2011.

The lucky winner will be randomly selected using random.org and his/her name will be announced via Twitter (follow @thelondonfoodie) at midday on Friday, 14th October 2011.

If you do not use Twitter, I will also be publishing the winner's name here at 15 minutes past midnight on the 15th October 2011.

The winner of this competition, randomly selected by random.org, was entrant number 9  HolyTShirT - Toby Henderson. Congratulations Toby, the Renaissance Pub group will contact you with further details on how to redeem your prize.

Saturday, 8 October 2011


The London Restaurant Festival’s annual debate was a cracker in 2010 when flamboyant foodists Janet Street-Porter and Rosie Boycott went head to head with the knife-sharp culinary wit of Jonathan Meades and A.A Gill to debate the motion ‘French Cuisine Is A Spent Force'.

This year's motion: ‘There Is No Such Thing As Ethnic Food' is subjected to a flame grilling.

Speakers will include A.A Gill, Jonathan Meades, Clarissa Dickson Wright, and Hardeep Singh, chaired by Kirsty Young.

11 October, Kings Place, 6.30pm

Tickets to include a glass of wine from Wines from Rioja and canapés


To enter this competition, simply leave a comment in this post stating your NAME and E-MAIL address as MrBloggs(at)gmail(dot)com by midnight on Sunday, 9th October 2011.

The winner will be randomly selected using random.org and his/her name will be announced via Twitter (follow @thelondonfoodie) shortly after midnight on the 9th October 2011.

If you do not use Twitter, I will also be publishing the winner's name here at midday on the 10th October 2011.

The winner of this competition was Felicity Spector. Congratulations Felicity, enjoy the debate! 

Thursday, 6 October 2011


Win a meal for two at one of this year’s most exciting London food event courtesy of American Express®

BritDish is a landmark culinary event that’s been created in celebration of the partnership between London Restaurant Festival and American Express.
Taking place on Sunday 9th October 2011, BritDish will see five renowned international chefs reinterpret some of Britain’s most well known dishes for Sunday lunch. Exclusively available to American Express Cardmembers, diners will be treated to traditional British favourites but each with an exciting twist. Inspirational creations from Angela Hartnett, Vivek Singh, Nuno Mendes, Bruno Loubet and The River Room at the Savoy Hotel will completely turn the notion of Sunday lunch on its head.

The London Foodie  has teamed up with American Express to offer one lucky reader the chance to win a table for two at the Viajante BritDish event.

The winner and their guest will enjoy a traditional British meal of to prawn cocktail, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and apple crumble, given a gastronomic twist by innovative chef Nuno Mendes.

Amex Be Inspired
Exciting cuisine from around the globe has inspired the BritDish chefs to develop their unique menus, now we want you to tell us what inspires you. American Express is celebrating the power of inspiration to help people to realise their potential and is working with youth charity ThePrince’s Trust to help inspire young people through the Amex Be Inspired programme.

So, during the London Restaurant Festival, simply tell American Express what inspires you about food and they will contribute 50p to The Prince’s Trust. Whether it’s a chef, a recipe, an ingredient or just a memorable meal, each inspiration will help fund a series of grassroots programmes across the country including a series of inspiring workshops. For more information and to take part, visit amexbeinspired.com /#amexbeinspired


To enter this competition, you do not need to be an Amex card holder, simply leave a comment in this post stating your NAME and E-MAIL address as MrBloggs(at)gmail(dot)com by midnight on Friday, 7th October 2011, answering the following question:

Participating BritDish chefs will reinterpret some of which country’s most well known dishes:
a)           Australia
b)           Britain
c)            China

The lucky winner will be randomly selected using random.org and his/her name will be announced via Twitter (follow @thelondonfoodie) at 15minutes past midnight on the 7th October 2011.

If you do not use Twitter, I will also be publishing the winner's name here at 18:00 hours on the 8th October 2011.

For more information about BritDish visit londonrestaurantfestival.com/amex

The winner of this competition, randomly selected by random.org, was entrant 17 - anonymous -Matt.

Your details have been emailed to the American Express team who will be in touch with you. Well done, and thanks for entering this competition!

Terms and Conditions:

•             Prize includes lunch for two at Viajante Restaurant as part of the American Express BritDish event on Sunday 9th October 2011
•             Lunch will be served between 12.30 – 3.30pm
•             Cost of meal is capped at £200 for two people inclusive of drinks
•             Accommodation and travel are NOT included                                   
•             The prize is non refundable and non-transferable. There is no cash alternative

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Posh Pub Crawling at ETM Group Pubs - ETM Gastro Gallop for London Restaurant Festival

In the run-up to London Restaurant Festival (LRF), a group of food and wine writers and I were taken on a gastronomic tour of five of ETM Group's establishments. For one day only, 5th October 2011, you can experience the same trip as part of LRF for only £60 per person inclusive of five courses in five different venues plus fine wines, cocktails and transport. For more information, visit the London Restaurant Festival website here.

Image Courtesy of  Paul Winch-Furness

Whenever I visit the bars of Spain or Italy I feel a bittersweet admiration for their custom of serving delectable small plates with their drinks, and how each bar is known for its particular offerings. This is a habit I would love to see extended to London where the saying "Eating is Cheating" is unfortunately ingrained in the minds of many hardened drinkers. In my opinion, drinking and eating go hand in hand, and it always a delight to find pubs like the ones we visited where as much trouble and thought goes into the food as the drinks.

Our first of five stops was at the Chiswell Street DiningRooms (CSDR) for canapés and cocktails. Occupying the premises of the former Whitbread Brewery on Milton Street, CSDR offers all-day, classic British menus devised by head chef Richard O’Connell, previously at The Groucho Club and One Aldwych. This was in my opinion the most elegant establishment, offering the best setting and food of all the places we visited during the evening.

I particularly enjoyed the mini Aberdeen Angus beef Wellington, the foie gras ballotine, brioche and Madeira jelly, and the seared Isle of Man king scallop, served with crispy bacon and pea puree. 

Image Courtesy of Coralie of Tea Time in Wonderland
Image Courtesy of Coralie of Tea Time in Wonderland
Other delectable canapés included smoked eel with horseradish, leek and wild mushroom tart, and soft boiled quail's egg, truffled duxelle and celery salt. A fine Old Elliot cocktail, a refreshing blend of Plymouth gin, Lillet Blanc, Peychaud's bitters, fresh coriander, lime juice and sugar, was a splendid foil to the range of canapés.

Image Courtesy of Coralie of Tea Time in Wonderland

Image Courtesy of Coralie of Tea Time in Wonderland
We then boarded our people carrier to be whisked off to our next stop - The Hat and Tun at 3 Hatton Wall, Farringdon for our starter. This was a more traditional Victorian pub setting with deer antlers on the walls, taxidermy trophies and abundant dark oak.

Image Courtesy of Coralie of Tea Time in Wonderland

We were quickly seated and served our starter of Herefordshire snail and smoke bacon pie, Guinness and mushroom cream sauce. The snails were meaty and tasted delicious with the other ingredients encased in a light and crisp pastry.

Image Courtesy of Coralie of Tea Time in Wonderland

To accompany our pie, we had what I thought were some of the best wines of the evening - a fantastic 08 Montagny, 1er Cru le Vieux Chateau by J M Boillot, and also a red from the same region (Burgundy), a 08 Savigny les Beaune, 1er Cru Fourneaux by Jean J Girard. I was very pleased to see such quality wines at The Hat and Tun, and was soon to discover that the Beverage Operations Manager for the ETM Group who was accompanying us on the evening, Paulo Brammer, is a fellow Brazilian. Trust a Brazilian to find a good tipple!

It was soon time to head off to our third stop, and aboard our mini-van, we made our way to The White Swan on Fetter Lane. Similar in style to The Hat and Tun but with an impressive first-floor dining room, TheWhite Swan is another of ETM's pubs I would like to return to. Lunch menus are priced at £27 and £31 (two/three courses), while a three course dinner will set you back £35 or thereabouts. Judging by the delicious main course we had there, and the lavish dining room, these are, in my opinion, fair prices.

My roast tranche of Cornish line-caught turbot was, as their site states, hand-selected that morning at Billingsgate Market, and indeed it tasted ultra fresh. It was accompanied by Dorset crab beignets, braised young turnip tops, salsify, and bisque butter sauce. It was a beautifully executed dish with some top quality fish, being also the perfect match to the 07 South African Semillon from Boekenhoutskloof, in Franschhoek that we drank there.

Image Courtesy of Paul-Winch Furness

For dessert, we then drove across town to The Botanist in Sloane Square. More like a glitzy bar than a traditional English pub, The Botanist is a beautiful venue which certainly lives up to its glamorous postcode. There, we were served an assortment of dessert canapés including lemon meringue pie, Devonshire custard tart and baked gooseberry cheesecake.

My favourite desserts however were the fig pudding with Port roasted figs and caramel custard, and the chocolate and pecan brownies. To accompany our dessert canapés, we had a magnificent 08 Royal Tokaji Late Harvest from Hungary which was buttery, with refreshing acidity and notes of sweet honey and flowers.

Image Courtesy of Paul Winch-Furness

The evening wasn't over yet! Off we went to The Cadogan Arms on the Kings Road, just a few hundred metres away for coffee, digestifs, and a game of pool. This was a splendid evening, full of good food and wines, and I hope to be able to revisit some of these spots over the coming months.

I would highly recommend this London Restaurant Festival event tonight, ETM Gastro Gallop, which recreates this trip at £60 per person including 5 course dinner, wines, cocktail and transport between the five locations. For more information and to book tickets, please visit the website here or call Lauren on 020 7242 9122 ext 1 or email lauren.w@etmgroup.co.uk.

Chiswell Street Dining Rooms 56 Chiswell St, EC1Y 4SA  (020 7614 0177)

Chiswell Street Dining Room on Urbanspoon

The Hat & Tun 3 Hatton Wall, EC1N 8HX  (020 7 242 4747)

The Hat & Tun on Urbanspoon

The White Swan 108 Fetter Lane, EC4A 1ES  (020 7242 9696)

The White Swan on Urbanspoon

The Botanist 7 Sloane Square, SW1W 8EE  (020 7730 0077)

The Botanist on Urbanspoon

The Cadogan Arms 298 King's Road, SW3 5UG (020 7352 6500)

The Cadogan Arms on Urbanspoon
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